Published on October 30, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour


Pint of bass please

It’s music to our bars. Distilleries in the US are using reggae, hip-hop and blues to soothe their spirits and enhance the natural barrel-ageing process by creating “musically matured” whiskies, bourbons and rums.

Among those is Copper Kings in Louisville, Kentucky, which produces American craft brandy. It plays music through a set of subwoofers into its barrel room which the team believes alters the evolution of spirits in barrel. Similarly, Dark Island in New York also musically matures its spirits, believing that the vibrations encourage greater interaction between the liquid and the barrel.

While it might seem fanciful, the science behind it does hold some weight, and it makes sense that increased vibrations within a barrel could alter the ageing process.

Explaining the concept of “sonic ageing”, the Copper Kings team states: “We have five major sub-woofers in our basement maturation cellar. The principle of sonic ageing is not vibration but pulsation. We pulse music – a bass note in particular – through the cellar. The alcohol molecules, being less dense than water molecules, start to move away from the pulse and collide with other alcohol molecules inside the barrels which eventually collide with the barrel wall. They slide up the wall which starts to create a ‘distillate wave’ inside the barrel, resulting in increased frequency of contact over time between the distillate and the barrel which in our opinion enhances maturation. And at the veryleast, happy brandy makes for happy drinking.”

Cheers North East put the hypothesis to a brewer uniquely qualified in the world of music, having worked in both disciplines in Spain (which adds a touch of exotica to the equation). Alan Dunlop is head brewer at Tyne Bank Brewery with “previous” working for global record giant EMI and Scottish brewer Williams Bros.

Alan says: “I believe there are a few breweries experimenting with this. Dock Street in Philadelphia, were barrel-ageing a saison in former red wine barrels hooked up to the music of the Wu Tang Clan for six months, 24 hours a day. The theory is that the bass causes enough vibration to move the yeast around inside the barrel, which supposedly creates other flavours during the fermentation.

“Also, Teo Musso, a brewer in Italy, has been experimenting with different styles of music. The vibrations would cause the yeast to grow, which would produce greater flavour compounds.

“Personally, I think the more bass-heavy music would work better due to the increased vibration. Maybe that’s why there are so many heavy metal bands having beers dedicated to them.

“So, Miami Bass playing 24/7 in Tyne Bank Brewery from now on…”

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Alastair Gilmour

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